- where to from here?
Constant review and forward-planning is a necessity when managing dairy herd reproduction. At each stage of the dairy cycle, we need to look back at what was done and how it worked, and to look forward to what changes will achieve better results next time around.
InCalf looks to improve the key reproductive indices on a New Zealand dairy farm (6 week in-calf rate and empty rate) by assessing several areas of farm management.
We encourage farmers to review their farms reproductive performance and management
- Was nutrition of the herd a problem?
- Did the heifers calve at their correct weight?
- Was heat detection up to par?
A great place to start looking for answers is DairyNZ's InCalf manual. The manual forms the basis of the InCalf scheme - an industry-wide initiative encouraging active participation and focus on all things reproduction.
Franklin Vets now has fourteen InCalf trained advisors to help you best focus your intentions. We can accurately assess your farm's current performance, determine the size of the shortfall between your performance and target levels, develop solutions that will shrink the gaps and then implement those that will achieve the best results for your farm. With potential financial gains of $90 per cow on the average New Zealand dairy farm, it makes sense to allocate a good percentage of your time to reproductive management.
Why isn't everyone using InCalf?
Onewhero dairy farmers Bryce and Rosemarie Costar can't understand why more people aren't using DairyNZ's InCalf programme and its Fertility Focus Report.
The 50:50 sharemilkers have followed the programme in an effort to boost their herd's reproductive performance. The process involves identifying and improving on management areas with further potential, with the assistance of a trained InCalf advisor.
The couple, who milk 280 Friesans on a 115ha milking platform, have followed simple steps that have led to marked improvements despite facing a drought in the previous season. The proof is in the numbers and Rosemarie is quick to rattle these off.
"Since we kicked off, our production to the end of February was up 20 percent" she said.
"We were fairly hard hit by the drought and we dried off early this year. Despite this we ended up doing more production than the previous season, even though we dried off six weeks early. We worked out we saved $46,000 on empties and were able to cull on the things we wanted, not because they were empty. From spending an extra $17,500, we made more than $40,000 just in milk production".
The empty rate of the herd for the 2009 season was just six percent without the need for CIDRs. Before InCalf, the numbers were very different. During 2007 season, the empty rate was 18 percent with 60 cows CIDRd. In 2008, the empty rate was 23 percent and 106 cows CIDRd.
From spending an extra $17,500, we made more than $40,000 just in milk production
The couple have put in the hard yards and followed the processes outlined in InCalf carefully. Grass is measured fortnightly, young stock weighed six times a year, cows vaccinated for bovine viral diarrhoea (BVD), bull power increased and cows regularly condition scored.
Rosemarie considers the cost of following InCalf low.
"For the very slight amount of money that it cost, it's just a no-brainer from the benefits you get from it," she said.
The Costars are grateful for the support they have been given. InCalf provider Jason Fayers
and DairyNZ consulting officer Sarah Payne helped them establish the programme.
Through regular meetings, Jason helped the couple plan ahead to pivotal times. This planning and regular review is an important part of the InCalf programme.
One of the key messages Jason conveyed was the importance of getting cows as close to a condition score (CS) 5.0 as possible before calving.
"We were a little bit late in instigating that last year, but this year we've actually had Jason out and he's looked at the cows and said yes the heifers are 5.5 and the cows averaged 4.8 so are on target to hit 5.0 before calving," Rosemarie said.
"Considering the drought we've had, we were really pleased. I guess we are really lucky because the support we get from Franklin Vets is pretty amazing".
She recommends InCalf to other farmers.
"We scratch our heads now and we go 'why doesn't everyone use this?' We can't figure out why anyone wouldn't follow it".
Franklin Vets Reproductive Awards
Congratulations to the following dairy clients who were recipients of the Franklin Vets Reproductive Awards 2013:
Most Improved 6 week InCalf Rate
Ian & Lyn Lyons
Tony & Kelly Rae
Runner Up: Dennis Gill
Most Improved 6 week InCalf Rate